NKOMBO KACHEMBA, MWILA NTAMBI, Kitwe
MOPANI Copper Mines (MCM) has de-activated over 1,000 electronic access cards for employees engaged by companies whose contracts have been suspended by the mining firm.
This means that the over 1,000 workers cannot access MCM premises to continue with their duties.
The Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) has restricted power supply to MCM following a contractual dispute between the two parties, resulting in the latter suspending contracts for its suppliers and contractors and threatening to lay off 4,700 workers.
Both Mineworkers Union of Zambia general secretary Joseph Chewe and Association of Mine Suppliers and Contractors president Augustine Mubanga confirmed the development in separate interviews yesterday.
Mr Mubanga said there are about 300 companies whose contracts have been suspended by MCM and that each firm employs about 10 people.
“The blocking of cards for employees working for companies whose contracts were suspended by Mopani Copper Mines was done today [yesterday]. We can safely say over 1,000 cards have been de-activated by the mining firm,” Mr Mubanga said.
And Mr Chewe said the union is saddened by the happenings at MCM and has urged Government to intervene in the matter to prevent job losses.
“Yes, we have received a report about some workers having their cards de-activated. These are contractual workers. Our appeal to Mopani Copper Mines and the Copperbelt Energy Corporation is that they should find an amicable solution to this problem,” he said.
Mr Chewe said the union will not accept retrenchment of full-time workers by MCM and advised the mining company to quickly resolve the dispute it has with CEC.
And United Mineworkers Union of Zambia president Wisdom Ngwira urged Mopani not to punish its workers in its legal battle with CEC over revised electricity tariffs.
And National Union of Miners and Allied Workers president James Chansa has condemned threats by MCM to lay off 4,700 workers.
Green Party president Peter Sinkamba said MCM has “crossed the line” by threatening to retrench 4,700 workers and suspending over 300 contracts for Zambian suppliers and contractors.
CEC says Mopani owes about US$23 million since the electricity tariffs were revised but the mining firm contends that it signed a binding contract with the power supply company up to 2040.
CEC said in a statement last week that with all other mining companies having agreed to pay the new tariff, Mopani’s attitude poses a serious threat of allegedly undoing what has been achieved nationally and further risks taking the country back to a position where it cannot sustain its energy sector.
But Mopani said: “We are operating under a Power Supply Agreement dated the 31st March 2000, that was most recently amended on the 6th March 2015, and is valid until 2040. The PSA strictly sets out the agreed tariff and increases during the contract period. The contract provides that a tariff may be increased on agreement by both parties. This was the case in 2008 when Mopani agreed to a tariff increase of 33 percent over and above the contractual tariff. The current proposed revision would result in a further increase of 54 percent”.